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The Senatorial Inquisition of AEI:

Spurred by the allegations that the American Enterprise Institute sought to "buy scientists" to challenge the IPCC report, four Democratic Senators wrote to AEI President Chris DeMuth to challenge AEI's actions and demand an apology. In their letter, Senators Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, and John Kerry, alleged that if the published reports that AEI sought to "bribe" scientists were accurate, "it would be both disappointing and inexcusable." The Senators further proclaimed that they "would not stand silently by while organizations attempt to undermine science through offers of significant amounts of money." The letter concludes:

We hope that you will respond to this letter by telling us that the news reports that you offered to pay scientists up to $10,000 are incorrect. If not, we trust that AEI will publicly apologize for this conduct and demonstrate its sincerity by properly disciplining those responsible.

In the meantime, it is clear that the Senators were not reserving judgement about AEI's alleged conduct. In a press release about the letter, Senator Sanders declared:

It's outrageous that a right-wing think tank with ties to Big Oil and the Bush Administration is trying to twist scientific findings for their political purposes on the pressing issue of climate change. . . . The IPCC report confirms the urgency of the problem and adds to the scientific consensus that global warming is happening now and is human-caused. Is there no limit to the lengths that some corporate-funded groups will go to protect their donors' short-term profits? Is the fate of the entire planet not important enough for them to put the common interest above their narrow self-interest? The truth is that this scandalous behavior on the part of AEI is just the latest example of how big money interests distort and undermine honest debate on the important issues facing our country in so many areas.

AEI President Chris DeMuth did not take this lying down. His strongly worded response (complete with attachments) is posted on AEI's website here. Writes DeMuth:

I am saddened that you would not only believe the reports but would seek to give them credence by repeating them in ways that are even more reckless than the original article published last Friday by the Guardian.

The accusations of the Guardian article, and of your letter, are false. I sent around a memorandum to my AEI colleagues the day the article was published, attaching the letters we had sent to various scientists and policy experts knowledgeable about climate change issues . . . . Relevant portions of these documents were in circulation on the Internet last weekend and in the press earlier this week; they were readily available to anyone on your staffs who had wished to look into the matter or to call me or anyone else at AEI about it. . . .

The accusations of your letter, while couched in the form of questions and insinuations, are as I said harshly worded, and are extremely serious coming from four members of the United States Senate. And they are leveled at a long-established research institution, familiar to all of you, which takes the integrity and independence of its research equally seriously . . . . So it is not a rhetorical question to ask whether you stand by your letter and think it was well-considered.

Finally, I must take exception to your pointed opening reference to "the depths to which some would sink to undermine the scientific consensus that human activity is the major source of global climate change." I believe you have overstated the scientific consensus on the subject, but, even if you have not, I find it worrisome that four powerful political leaders would object to scientific dissent per se. Although you later give a formulaic nod to the right of dissent, you object to being paid a "significant" sum for dissenting research, which rather limits your conception of permissible dissent.

Consensus--and freedom to challenge consensus--are equally vital to the progress of science. History, including recent history, is replete with examples of expert consensus that turned out in the fullness of time to be mistaken. When I look over AEI's publications and conferences on climate change issues, I can indeed find arguments against (as well as for) aspects of IPCC modeling and other matters where some have urged that public debate should cease. I want you to know that AEI will continue to sponsor research and host speakers on climate change issues whose views we regard as reasonable and worthy of attention--never seeking to undermine any consensus for its own sake, but also never paying heed to whether particular views are in or out of official favor. AEI scholars have stood in opposition to established orthodoxy many times; we cherish our intellectual freedom and are proud of the uses we have made of that freedom; we will not be silenced by threats to that freedom.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on the exchange here.

Justin (mail):
Inquisiton? Really? ::Insert Monty Python Joke here::

Certainly, the problem with the *Senators* is that they're overreacting ::rolls eyes::
2.9.2007 4:57pm
MnZ (mail):

Certainly, the problem with the *Senators* is that they're overreacting


I suspect that the Senators realize that their jobs would get a whole lot easier if they didn't have that pesky AEI around.
2.9.2007 5:08pm
ed o:
does the president of the AEI hope to somehow "shame" people like the Senators. folks who, like Kerry, blather about conservation while having a fleet of SUV's and private jets? perhaps, instead of adopting the tone that the senators were somehow acting in good faith, one should sink down to their level and ridicule their hypocrisy. why keep the tone civil with them because they are senators.
2.9.2007 5:13pm
Steve:
I didn't enjoy Joe Barton's inquisition and I'm not a big fan of these heavy-handed tactics either.
2.9.2007 5:27pm
Nathan Hall (mail):
The validity of scientific work does not depend on who paid for it. If science funded by AEI is somehow inaccurate or false, careful examination of the data and replication of the work should reveal that. If the science is valid, it adds to our knowledge, and who cares if the money came from Big Oil or other scary people? The Senators offer no justification for their claim that it is automatically bad for interested parties to sponsor science, probably because they know there is no justification for it.
2.9.2007 5:27pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
How often can the pot keep calling the kettle black? Congressmen, who are up for sale at discount prices these days, should take a good look in the mirror before they cast the first stone. They complain about $10,000 being too much to pay someone for a review, but how about the enormous speaking fees these little angels get? Especially ex-presidents like Clinton. Clinton got offered a $100,000+ honorarium for about an hour speech at Morgan Stanley.
2.9.2007 5:28pm
Bobbie (mail):
Sanders isn't a democrat.
2.9.2007 5:55pm
EricH (mail):
There's been a disturbing trend lately, it appears, of Senators writing these not-so-subtle letters to organizations. We recently had several Republican Senators write a letter to the Post following the ugly comments by William Arkin on the Post blog. Prior to that, the Democratic Senators writing the letter to ABC during the controversy over the movie on 9/11.

Enough of this ladies and gentleman. Get on to the nation's business which is not what AEI or the Post or ABC is doing when they exercise their First Amendment Rights.

If you don't like what they disseminate, don't read it or watch it or listen to it.
2.9.2007 6:05pm
Some Anonymous Coward:
Sanders isn't a democrat.

Just out of curiosity, how often does Sanders vote the Democrat party-line?
2.9.2007 6:05pm
HokiePundit (0L) (mail):
I think paying for research is certainly no more scandalous than paying for legislators. On the other hand, these Senators are entitled to their positions and so they deserve every cent they get. We're fortunate to have them at any price.
2.9.2007 6:11pm
Justin (mail):
BTW, I completely agree with this:

"which takes the integrity and independence of its research equally seriously"

though not for the reasons Chris DeMuth would say. Though I am sure Mary Rosh, Timewarp, Alt37, Purtilo, Sniper1, Serinity, Henry1776, Stotts and Gordinier would beg to differ.
2.9.2007 6:13pm
John (mail):
Did the senators write to the U.N. yet about the bribes it pays for science research? Or are all the scientists working on U.N. projects doing so pro bono?
2.9.2007 6:19pm
Steve:
Get on to the nation's business which is not what AEI or the Post or ABC is doing when they exercise their First Amendment Rights.

I quite agree. Let's disregard all of Prof. Adler's posts on this topic and assume AEI had been trying to bribe scientists to push their climate change agenda. So the fuck what? Unless there's some law of which I am blissfully unaware against misrepresenting a scientific consensus, then the remedy is to expose the shenanigans, not to use the US Senate letterhead to try and intimidate them.
2.9.2007 6:22pm
cirby (mail):
One of the first "famous" books about global warming was, er, Global Warming, by Dr. Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist with NCAR.

Published by Sierra Club Books in 1989.

When will we start hearing about how the Sierra Club "bought" this major climate scientist?

Incidentally, most of the predictions in the book seem to be skewing towards the "never mind" range... including some of the assumptions about CO2 levels and sea level increase.
2.9.2007 6:39pm
mrshl (www):
So, it's okay for AEI to speak up and voice their principled objections, but not for senators to use "US Senate letterhead to try and intimidate them."

What does AEI have to fear from the poorly reasoned/supported objections from four headline-grabbing senators? Am I "blissfully unaware" of some power these senators have over AEI? AEI plays politics. Senators play politics. What's the big deal here? Looks like speech v. speech. If the senators are wrong, I'm sure their errors will be pointed out pretty quickly.
2.9.2007 6:42pm
Steve:
What does AEI have to fear from the poorly reasoned/supported objections from four headline-grabbing senators?

Because it's not speech vs. speech when one side has a government office. Maybe you missed the shenanigans when Joe Barton started bombarding scientists with subpoenas, but it's not a road we want to go down. There are lots and lots of non-governmental actors who are free to call attention to AEI's practices, and guess what! They have been.
2.9.2007 6:46pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
The senators may object to paying people on the basis of their opinions if they are heterodox. They don't seem to object to the actions by the Governor in Oregon to fire a climatologist on the grounds of heresey. Apparently its not the principle of paying for opinion they don't like, its just that people with views different from theirs get to do it.
2.9.2007 6:48pm
Mike D (mail):
When is dissent Patriotic? When it exposes the evil Chimpy McHitlerburton Oilwarmonger as the vile
soul-robbing godbag dictator he so obviously must be.

When is dissent NOT Patriotic: when you question the scientific validity, or scientific-community consensus on, global warming.

When is dissent Patriotic: when you mount the ramparts and scream that there is no war on terror, and that all security measures in place (such as military air travel for high ranking gubment officials) suggesting there IS such a war going on must be the evil christianist machinactions of bloodlusty neocon wolves bent on destroying America.

when is dissent NOT Patriotic: Questioning the necessity of Nancy Pelosi having a plane with a crew of 16 and room for 40 donors...er, passengers...to fly across country to her district on weekends.
2.9.2007 6:53pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Are we now going to start hunting down dissent scientists? I would suggest that the good Senators contact the Catholic Church to get their files on Galileo so that they can determine how best to prevent anyone from challenging scientific consensus.
2.9.2007 6:54pm
mrshl (www):
Steve, I guess I just disagree. Speech is speech. Subpoenas are subpoenas. I agree that using congressional subpoena power to intimidate and silence opponents is wrong. But here, I see no subpoenas.

Are you suggesting that elected officials should avoid criticizing people who don't hold government office?
2.9.2007 6:55pm
Steevo (mail):
"Is the fate of the entire planet not important enough for them to put the common interest above their narrow self-interest?"


Like any fate is important enough for the Senators?
2.9.2007 6:56pm
Mister Snitch! (mail) (www):
What does AEI have to fear from the poorly reasoned/supported objections from four headline-grabbing senators?

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the [insert object of witch hunt]?

Get it?
2.9.2007 7:07pm
Steve:
Are you suggesting that elected officials should avoid criticizing people who don't hold government office?

Of course not. I guess I see a difference between criticizing someone, and directly confronting them with demands for apologies and such. The Senators are certainly free to bloviate about the evils of AEI to their heart's content.
2.9.2007 7:08pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Nathan Hall writes: "The validity of scientific work does not depend on who paid for it. If science funded by AEI is somehow inaccurate or false, careful examination of the data and replication of the work should reveal that."

But of course original research is not what AEI is paying for. Original research in the area of climate science would cost a lot more than $10,000 for a paper. They're just asking some friendly scientists for critiques of other people's original research, because really all they need is some FUD that looks convincing in a lab coat. Original research would cost a lot more, take a lot longer, and could lead to unpredictable results (as original research so often does).

The AEI is to global warming as the Discovery Institute is to evolution.
2.9.2007 7:15pm
HerrMorgenholz (mail):
Dear Senators:

Know your places, boys and girls.

Yours,
The American People
2.9.2007 7:32pm
Enoch:
They're just asking some friendly scientists for critiques of other people's original research, because really all they need is some FUD that looks convincing in a lab coat.

The validity of a critique doesn't depend on who paid for it, either.
2.9.2007 7:33pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Dear American People:

Obey your betters. It's for your own good, and for The Children.

Ours,
The Senators
2.9.2007 7:38pm
mrshl (www):
Steve &Mister Snitch!, I see two ideas at work in Johnathan's post:

1) The senators are substantively wrong in their criticisms.

2) It's improper for senators to use their office to attack the speech of private citizens and to demand an apology. This is implied by the use of the word "inquisition."

I view the senators' remarks as bluster and posturing. Until subpoenas are actually issued, I think invoking the rhetoric of McCarthyism and inquisitions is a bit much.

I'm interested to see how the senators respond to AEI's non-apology. I'm thinking there won't be bonfires or gallows involved. I think subpoenas are equally unlikely. But should they issue, I'll be the first to agree they're improper.
2.9.2007 7:46pm
justa guy:
This is typical leftist preemptive strategy. When they intend to lie about something the left accuses the other side of lying first. This is done to dilute the accusation of lying (or any other charge). At worst it creates a "wash" for the left with most people believing that both sides are lairs. The left knows that the whole global warming scam is going to come under fire and they want to diffuse the other side. Notice though how the left never DEBATES the facts of an issue such as global warming, they merely wish to destroy the other side's credibility. Call him a racist, say he is connected to big industry, but never ever debate the facts.
2.9.2007 7:52pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Hm, I read the letter put out by AEI in response and nowhere do they show that the Guardian's article was false. AEI is indeed offering $10,000 to any scientist who will write something disputing the IPCC consensus. They just call it an "honorarium" rather than a bribe. Aside from that, the letter consists of a lot of pathetic whining.
2.9.2007 7:52pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Enoch:
The validity of a critique doesn't depend on who paid for it, either.


Of course it does. It's why a press release is not a news article, why newspapers don't ask directors or producers to write the reviews of their own plays and movies or authers to write the reviews of their own books, and why we even have such things as special prosecutors, independent investigators and auditors.
2.9.2007 7:56pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
mrshl:

If Senators want to express opinions as private citizens apart from their official status, that's one thing, but acting under the color of authority is quite another. AEI has no power to call witnesses, the Senate does. Just because you don't see subpoenas doesn't mean their comments don't carry an implied threat of some kind.
2.9.2007 8:00pm
MatthewM (mail):
Steve Reuland,

You're wrong. AEI was going to pay scientists for their unvarnished opinions, whether or not they supported the global warming consensus.

As to the larger issue, this kind of thuggery is a perfect example (as discussed previously here) about how scientific inquiry can be equally threatened by both the left and the right.
2.9.2007 8:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Climaxx:

"The AEI is to global warming as the Discovery Institute is to evolution."

So who's afraid of the big bad Discovery Institute? Let them publish what they want, and we will refute it. But your statement implies AEI advocates pseudo- science or false science. I assume you believe the Global Warming theory stands on as firm a foundation as the theory of evolution?
2.9.2007 8:08pm
mrshl (www):
Again, I don't think the senators' right to speak or criticize is or should be blunted simply because they have the power of subpoena. Senators always have that power, even if they're speaking "as private citizens." It doesn't follow that people should fear subpoena or prosecution each time they receive criticism from senators or other public officials. Abuse of such power carries significant political risks.

I'm not suggesting such communications can't be threatening or intimidating. I'm saying that inquisition rhetoric is perhaps an improper way to characterize the exchange. Note that AEI doesn't appear to be too intimidated.
2.9.2007 8:13pm
Steve Reuland (www):
"The validity of a critique doesn't depend on who paid for it, either."

That's kind of like saying that the validity of a Senator's vote doesn't depend on the fact that someone offered him a bribe.

The problem is that paying money to scientists in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion upsets the integrity of the scientific process and creates a conflict of interest. The AEI protests that this kind of fee is "normal", which is just ridiculous. The IPCC authors didn't get paid any money for their efforts, and I kind of doubt that whoever decides to whore himself out to the AEI is going to have to do much work.
2.9.2007 8:16pm
Steve Reuland (www):
"You're wrong. AEI was going to pay scientists for their unvarnished opinions, whether or not they supported the global warming consensus."

Do you seriously think that the AEI is going to pay these "honoraria" to anyone who is going to say, "The IPCC is basically right and what the AEI has been saying all these years is flat-out wrong"? If you believe that then I have some ocean-front condos in Colorado for sale.

I looked through some of their prior publications, which the letter offers up triumphantly as exemplifying AEI's "honest discussion", and every single one that I looked at takes the denialist position and/or says that any attempt at restricting carbon emissions would be economically ruinous. Given that these viewpoints are far from the mainstream scientific position, it's quite obvious that they're not picking people at random to write this stuff.
2.9.2007 8:27pm
Bpbatista (mail):
How dare anyone challenge the "scientific consensus"! Have we learned nothing from quacks like Copernicus, Gallileo and Darwin -- they all challenged the "scientific consensus" of their day and look what happened. Global Warming skeptics should be burned at the stake.
2.9.2007 8:31pm
PaulD (mail):
Alot of people are referring to the scientific consensus on global warming. Here is an honest question--Could some expert please describe specifically the consensus that has been reached. Is it: 1) the earth is warming and greenhouse gases caused by human activity are playing some role in the process; 2) the earth is warming and unless major reductions in the production of greenhouse gasses are acheived, the earth will suffer catastrophic consequences; or 3) Something in between.
I suspect that to the degree a consensus exists, it is much closer to (1) than to (2).
2.9.2007 8:50pm
Shad:
"The validity of a critique doesn't depend on who paid for it, either."

That's kind of like saying that the validity of a Senator's vote doesn't depend on the fact that someone offered him a bribe.


Actually, these two are nothing like each other at all. Subjective and objective.

A Senator's vote is valid regardless of whether it was decided based on a rational evaluation of the issues involved, the phase of the moon, the Senator's religious beliefs, the prevailing political conventional wisdom, the medication the Senator's on, the result of a dare, or any other reason the Senator might whimsically choose. A vote that's "bought" carries as much weight as a vote determined by any other means. It can be inscrutable and completely indefensible, yet remain as valid as any other vote cast for any other reason.

A scientific critique, on the other hand, cannot be shielded from scrutiny and if it cannot be rationally defended then it will carry no weight in a scientific debate. So even if a scientific critique is "bought" by paying someone to research and write it, the critique can still be objectively evaluated as 'valid' or not; it stands or falls on its own merits.
2.9.2007 8:52pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Your statement implies AEI advocates pseudo- science or false science.


And your statement implies that you think they advocate actual science. Where is their funding for original research into climate issues?

I assume you believe the Global Warming theory stands on as firm a foundation as the theory of evolution?


Why would you assume that? If I wrote that "'Our Town' is to Thornton Wilder as 'Romeo and Juliet' is to Shakespeare" would you assume that I was implying that Wilder was as great a playwright as Shakespeare?
2.9.2007 9:02pm
Steve Reuland (www):
"Actually, these two are nothing like each other at all. Subjective and objective."

Semantic quibbling. You know what I meant. The objectivity of one's judgment becomes compromised when someone is throwing money at you. That's why bribing politicians is illegal, and why the AEI's pay for play policy here is at best highly suspect.

"A scientific critique, on the other hand, cannot be shielded from scrutiny and if it cannot be rationally defended then it will carry no weight in a scientific debate."

I don't think AEI is trying to win a scientific debate. They know that the materials they produce will have little or no influence on scientists. They're trying to produce these materials in order to influence policy makers and the general public. This is sometimes referred to as "propaganda".
2.9.2007 9:08pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Have we learned nothing from quacks like Copernicus, Gallileo and Darwin -- they all challenged the "scientific consensus" of their day and look what happened.


Yes, but they were all scientists, ready to puruse their observations using the scientific method to wherever it took them. They challenged scientific consensus only after their research showed that the data they had uncovered could not be fit into the scientific models that were until then assumed to be so. They all started out trying to *refine* the existing models and only later discovered that what they found actually overthrew those models. They did not initiate their work for the sake of an honorarium from some person or group uncomfortable with the implications of the scientific consensus.

Indeed, when we look at scientists paid to study or comment on an issue by a think tank with a strong political agenda, the picture isn't so rosy (e.g., Dr. Clarence Cook Little).
2.9.2007 9:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Climaxx:

"And your statement implies that you think they advocate actual science. Where is their funding for original research into climate issues?"

I'm not making accusations against AEI.

"Why would you assume that? If I wrote that "'Our Town' is to Thornton Wilder as 'Romeo and Juliet' is to Shakespeare" would you assume that I was implying that Wilder was as great a playwright as Shakespeare?"

Then the answer is "no."
2.9.2007 9:32pm
Chimaxx (mail):
No, you're the one trying to discredit the senators criticizing the AEI by associating them with the speaking fees and ex-president gets after leaving office.
2.9.2007 9:41pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Climaxx:

Then the answer is "yes." You do assume the theory of Global Warming stands on as firm a foundation as the theory evolution? Or perhaps we are talking about different things.
2.9.2007 9:52pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Then the answer is "no."


Actually, the answer is "You can't assume."

And the answer is that your question is irrelevant: There is no scientific awards ceremony for the discipline with the firmest foundations.

Evolutionary theory has been honed and refined for over 200 years. Climate theory leading to an understanding of global warming is a new kid on the block, by comparison. Both seem to have firm foundations, with scientists building on and refining the theories and models. Both may continue to be around--refined, and honed but unchanged at the core--for the next millennium. Or either one could be overturned next week by a new Einstein, Galileo or Copernicus, pursuing some question, who discovers that what he has observed doesn't just refine or extend the model as scientists understand it but forces them to reexamine it at its core.

Where it won't come from is the Discovery Institute or the AEI--because they aren't doing original science, and they aren't interested in doing original science.
2.9.2007 9:58pm
Mark Field (mail):
I'm puzzled by the defense of the Senators. Personally, I think the worst of AEI. In my heart of hearts, I believe they are offering money for contrarian essays regardless of scientific merit (something which has never mattered to AEI at any time on any subject IMO).

So what? How is this the business of the Senators? Doing something about global warming? That is their business, not harassing others for their (deluded) opinions. God knows the world doesn't lack for those; the Senate will never accomplish anything if it wastes its time tilting at windmills.
2.9.2007 9:58pm
Elliot123 (mail):

If we can keep those senators writing silly letters, there's less chance they will be passing silly laws.
2.9.2007 9:59pm
Viscus (mail) (www):
I am glad to the see the Senators taking the AEI to task. I seriously used to think the AEI was intellectually honest, even if I disagreed with them, before this incident.

Here is a simply algorithm.
(1) Report sponsored by AEI lands on your desk.
(2) Trash it, unless written by a scholar with an independent and stellar reputation for intellectual honesty.

In a comment on a previous post, someone mentioned that Eugene Volokh received a small honorarium from AEI. Despite this, I don't think Volokh would sell out. (Especially not for a small amount of money.)

It is going too far to say that if someone is associated with AEI they are intellectually dishonest sellouts per se. However, such an association does deserve a careful investigation.

I am glad that these Senators called attention to this scandal involving AEI, which before now, had a better reputation. The stubborness of AEI in face of this scandal is simply evidence that they don't take their reputation seriously.

At the very least, the letter that Adler posted on this very page seemed to imply a desire for certain sinister anti-IPCC emphasis to the work. Acknowledging this reasonable interpretation of this letter, AEI should have vowed in the future to indicate with crystal clear clarity in all solicitations for research that a scholarly work is to be truly independent and AEI is not looking to advance a particular view, but rather advance the truth regardless of agenda.

Even if AEI did change it's soliticians in this manner, AEI would still be suspect. It seems likely that AEI selects scholars who are most likely to advance a certain point of view. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? How free does an AEI scholar, even subconsciously, to change certain positions in face of an implicit threat of lack of future support?

AEI research should be heavily discounted or discarded, except for cases where the scholar in question has an independent and well-establish reputation for honesty. Especially in face of AEI's failure to make any reforms when this solicitation came to light.
2.9.2007 10:09pm
MnZ (mail):

So what? How is this the business of the Senators? Doing something about global warming? That is their business, not harassing others for their (deluded) opinions. God knows the world doesn't lack for those; the Senate will never accomplish anything if it wastes its time tilting at windmills.


How true! If climate change is truly a problem, the Senators should be writing laws...not letters.
2.9.2007 10:12pm
Viscus (mail) (www):
Mark Field,

I think the issue here is that before now, AEI actually had a reputation, when held to the standards of an ideologically-oriented think tank. That reputation is in the trash. The Senators letter to AEI reinforces the appropriate view we should have with respect to AEI's reputation for integrity. It is important to publicize this incident regarding AEI, so that people are aware that they should be extra skeptical of anything produced by them. The Senator's actions further that goal.
2.9.2007 10:14pm
Terry Gain (mail):
The attempt of elected officials to intimidate an organization from investigating -or even questioning -a scientific theory is an outrageous attack upon the civil liberties of the members of the orgainzation.

What do these Senators think this is -Russia or China?

Of course with Kerry it's an outrage a week. What an idiot.
2.9.2007 10:34pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Why pick on Russia? Bush said he looked into the soul of Putin, and trusts him. That's good enough for me. All the negative press you read (but not in Russia, as many of those journalists are no longer with us) is simply not to be credited.
2.9.2007 10:51pm
Steve:
I'm really feeling stupid for lining up on the side of the clowns on this issue, but I'm tentatively standing my ground.
2.9.2007 10:53pm
MnZ (mail):

The Senators letter to AEI reinforces the appropriate view we should have with respect to AEI's reputation for integrity. It is important to publicize this incident regarding AEI, so that people are aware that they should be extra skeptical of anything produced by them. The Senator's actions further that goal.


Based on Sanders statements, his goal was to impune the motives of any research organization that takes corporate money.

I suspect that Sander's distaste for the AEI runs pretty deep as the AEI has never been a friend of socialism.
2.9.2007 11:05pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Since according to AEI's Kenneth Green, the vast majority of the letters were sent to policy people and economists, why is everyone going on about the science types?

Also, just a brief note that Duke Cunningham who WAS on the take got thrown out in the election. True there are a few Republicans left, still.
2.9.2007 11:08pm
Spectral Disorder:
blockquote>
So who's afraid of the big bad Discovery Institute? Let them publish what they want, and we will refute it.

So presumably, then, if the Saudis decided to spend $20 billion of their recent oil profits to make sure that every 20th century history textbook in the United States said that the holocaust never happened, you would be okay with that too?
2.9.2007 11:08pm
Mark Field (mail):

The Senators letter to AEI reinforces the appropriate view we should have with respect to AEI's reputation for integrity. It is important to publicize this incident regarding AEI, so that people are aware that they should be extra skeptical of anything produced by them. The Senator's actions further that goal.


I don't really think it's the job of the Senate -- much less that of 4 Senators -- to tell we citizens what opinions we should have about AEI or anyone else. Their job is to solve problems by passing laws. There are plenty of other ways to publicize the incident so that people can form their own opinions. That's why the First Amendment guaranteed us a free blogosphere.

Just to be sure we're clear, I have no objection to Congress conducting hearings which disclose facts on which we and they can draw conclusions. But that's not what happened here.
2.9.2007 11:42pm
Terry Gain (mail):
Spectral Disorder

Thank you for bringing the issue into sharper focus. The holocaust is an historical fact. Anthropogenic global warming is a theory. It's very telling that you regard questioning of the latter to be no more legitimate than questioning of the former.
2.9.2007 11:48pm
glangston (mail):
Terry Gain (mail):
Spectral Disorder

Thank you for bringing the issue into sharper focus. The holocaust is an historical fact. Anthropogenic global warming is a theory. It's very telling that you regard questioning of the latter to be no more legitimate than questioning of the former.




Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe just made a similar statement...."I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future."

It's contagious.
2.10.2007 12:04am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Spectral Disorder:

"So presumably, then, if the Saudis decided to spend $20 billion of their recent oil profits to make sure that every 20th century history textbook in the United States said that the holocaust never happened, you would be okay with that too."

I don't see any comparison between the two. The Discovery Institute is a domestic "Think Tank" trying to promote what I consider a bogus scientific theory: Intelligent Design. They are somewhat like the Church of Scientology, or The Flat Earth Society. They are more in the nature of a nuisance than a threat. On the other hand, the Saudis are a hostile, dangerous, hateful, and corrupt foreign government. They preach hate against Jews and Christians and have the resources to cause harm. They go far beyond simply denying the Holocaust.
2.10.2007 12:19am
mrshl (www):
I've never understood the following argument:


You're a _____, so your job is to _____, not to go around doing _____. Leave that to _____.


It's most commonly deployed against actors and athletes, but that's obviously not the only way it's used:


Their job is to solve problems by passing laws. There are plenty of other ways to publicize the incident so that people can form their own opinions. That's why the First Amendment guaranteed us a free blogosphere.

How is this the business of the Senators? Doing something about global warming? That is their business, not harassing others for their (deluded) opinions. God knows the world doesn't lack for those; the Senate will never accomplish anything if it wastes its time tilting at windmills.


Maybe you're upset over a perceived abuse of power. I don't buy it, but an argument can be made. But the above arguments are much weaker. You're saying congressional power should be confined to a narrow legislative scope. Leave it to others to proclaim and provoke to demand accountability. That's not the lawmaker's job.

No apparently the art of the harangue is peculiar to bloggers and to the blogosphere; and to the think tanks, of course. Leave the opinions up to us, senators. We're the experts. Indeed, how on earth did these people become senators in the first place? Making such poor use of their time. We obviously know better than they. We've even managed to find enough spare time to say a few words on the subject.
2.10.2007 12:30am
GregD:
The AEI is a joke.
2.10.2007 12:39am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Steve, I guess I just disagree. Speech is speech. Subpoenas are subpoenas. I agree that using congressional subpoena power to intimidate and silence opponents is wrong. But here, I see no subpoenas.

Are you suggesting that elected officials should avoid criticizing people who don't hold government office?
I don't know -- what did you think about what Cully Stimson did?
2.10.2007 12:58am
mrshl (www):
Actually, David, I thought about that, and I agree that's a fair parallel. As with the Senators, I had substantive disagreements with Stimson. I don't think AEI's conduct is unlawful or even particularly noteworthy. They seem like flat-earthers to me, but I certainly don't think they owe anyone an apology.

I disagreed with the substance of what Cully Stimson said, too. Quite a few people took him to mean that defending the detainees is a bad thing to do. It's not 100% clear to me that's actually what he meant to say, but if that is what he meant, I think he's wrong. On the other hand, perhaps there are clients who are subsidizing detainee defense unwillingly. That's not an improper consideration for those firms. One can agree that detainees deserve effective representation but still be reluctant to pay for it.

Stimson made a bad political move. And I probably wouldn't pick him to supervise detainee treatment. But I don't think his remarks were an obvious abuse of power. Something similar might be said of these four senators. I think I'd rather save my outrage for something a bit more concrete.
2.10.2007 2:03am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The scientific consensus is that for the last few million years the Earth has spent 80% of the time in an ice age.

Suppose CO2 is all that is standing between us and dieing of starvation. Maybe we need to pump out more CO2.

A Geologist Looks At Global Warming

BTW if it is hard to get funing for anything other than global warming wouldn't that bias the science?

The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus Richard S. Lindzen.

BTW
2.10.2007 4:18am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
BTW all this human caused global warming stuff is based on CO2 trapped head being multiplied by increased water vapor in the atmosphere.

Except that no one knows what the contribution of water vapor is. Positive(greenhouse effect), zero, or negative (clouds).

It is assumed positive. Why? Well that keeps the money coming.

Do you think Senators would be interested in this if the hysteria hadn't been ginned up?

BTW none of the computer models on which this scare is based are open source. That is not science. That is fraud.

I also note that the Earth has been heating up. So has Mars. I wonder if there is a connection?

The question is: what is man's influence? Large in the right direction, small in the right direction, insignificant, small in the wrong direction, large in the wrong direction?
2.10.2007 4:35am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Lindzen from the above link:

So far I have emphasized the political elements in the current climate hysteria. There can be no question, however, that scientists are abetting this situation. Concerns about funding have already been mentioned. There is, however, another perhaps more important element to the scientific support. The existence of modern computing power has led to innumerable modelling efforts in many fields. Supercomputers have allowed us to consider the behavior of systems seemingly too complex for other approaches. One of those systems is climate. Not surprisingly, there are many problems involved in modelling climate. For example, even supercomputers are inadequate to allow long-term integrations of the relevant equations at adequate spatial resolutions. At presently available resolutions, it is unlikely that the computer solutions are close to the solutions of the underlying equations. In addition, the physics of unresolved phenomena such as clouds and other turbulent elements is not understood to the extent needed for incorporation into models. In view of those problems, it is generally recognized that models are at present experimental tools whose relation to the real world is questionable.

Also note that solar wind and cosmic rays have recently been found to be significant factors in cloud formation. That is not in the models.

Clouds are very significant in determining albedo.
2.10.2007 4:42am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
If you assume that solar output has increased .5% over the last century (latest estimates) and a planetary temperature of 11 deg C 100 years ago. That accounts for 60% of the estimated change in temperature over that period of .6 deg C, from radiation factors alone.

Except that the noise level of the estimates is greater than the remainder.

Lawyers version: once you account for increased solar output it is hard to tell what is really going on.

Why wasn't this included in the models? The estimates verification is recent.
2.10.2007 5:30am
Mark Field (mail):

Maybe you're upset over a perceived abuse of power. I don't buy it, but an argument can be made.


Yes, I think intimidation by the government is much more dangerous than by individuals. I treat it as a slippery slope and favor stopping it before it goes any further.


You're saying congressional power should be confined to a narrow legislative scope. Leave it to others to proclaim and provoke to demand accountability. That's not the lawmaker's job.


That's overstating my view. If a law were violated, I think Congress has every right to investigate for purposes of improving existing laws. That's not the case here -- there is no accountability for Congress to demand. Whatever AEI did (and feel free to characterize as pejoratively as you want; you'll get no disagreement from me), it falls well outside any imaginable exercise of Congressional power. For that reason, I'm more inclined to see it as intimidation.


Leave the opinions up to us, senators.


I expect Senators to have opinions. I don't expect them to tell us what opinions we should have. That reverses the order of employment -- they work for us, not vice versa.
2.10.2007 11:14am
David M. Nieporent (www):
That's overstating my view. If a law were violated, I think Congress has every right to investigate for purposes of improving existing laws. That's not the case here -- there is no accountability for Congress to demand.
To be specific, nobody outside of the federal government is "accountable" to Congress at all -- Congress is not tasked with enforcing the law, except against the other branches of government -- and indeed, unless and until one breaks the law, nobody is "accountable" to any branch of the government in any fashion. The government is accountable to us, not vice versa.
2.10.2007 12:45pm
Eli Rabett (www):
And the Congress can investigate anything it wants for the purpose of making new law.
2.10.2007 4:48pm
Eli Rabett (www):
M. Simon, all that that experiment did is show something everyone knew, that ions can form nucleation centers which can grow to form sulphate aerosols. However a. Everyone knows that most of the ions in the troposphere are formed by collisions with cosmic rays, and b. having a nucleation center available is a necessary but insufficient condition for forming a sulfate aerosol. Among other things you need SO2 which is almost always the limiting condition except around smokestacks, volcanoes and old diesel trucks.
2.10.2007 4:55pm
Mark Field (mail):

And the Congress can investigate anything it wants for the purpose of making new law.


That's a bit of an overstatment in my view. I think the investigation must have some reasonable relationship with a possible new law. In this particular case, no law affecting AEI's behavior even seems possible. And in any case, this wasn't an investigation, this was a denunciation ex cathedra.
2.10.2007 6:27pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Why does Bernie Sanders reject the 'scientific consensus' that socialism is an inefficient method of economic organization?

Doesn't he know that inefficiency in the production of goods and services leads to more energy being used to produce less and that increased energy use is related to increased release of greenhouse gases and hence global warmingh?
2.12.2007 10:37am